My car is getting to the age where a lot of lights are coming on and flashing, most notably the maintenance light. When I start the car, it will flash on and off for five seconds and then turn off again. I did a little research in my handy owner's manual and found out that the flashing maintenance light is nothing to panic at. It's basically just telling you that your car will need some kind of scheduled service soon. It could be an oil change, a tuneup, or maybe you need a new timing belt.
When the light begins to flash at startup, you have about 500 miles or so to go before the next scheduled service. After that, the light will generally come on and stay on, letting you know that the time for maintenance has come.
Depending on your vehicle, the maintenance light will be activated at different mileage points. Sometimes the maintenance light will come on every few thousand miles to let you know it's time for an oil change. Sometimes it will only come on at 60,000-mile intervals or some very large number like that to let you know that you need a major tuneup.
"Maintenance Required" vs. "Check Engine"
The "maintenance required" light is not to be confused with the "check engine" light. The picture at the top of this article shows your standard "maintenance required" light; the pictures below show standard "check engine" lights.
The "check engine" light is generally a much more serious warning than your maintenance light. The "check engine" light doesn't come on at preset intervals like the maintenance light does; it will only come on if your engine or car is experiencing a serious problem. If your "check engine" light comes on, go immediately to a mechanic for diagnostics. The mechanic should be able to plug in a reader which will tell them the reason why the light has come on.
How to Reset the Maintenance Light
Getting the "maintenance required" light to turn off is generally something you'll have to have the mechanic do. However, on most vehicles, you can manually turn it off yourself.
On some vehicles, you'll have to go through a sequence, like holding down the odometer button while turning off the car, waiting five seconds, turning the car on again, and releasing the odometer button. The sequences of actions that turn off your maintenance required light, as well as your check engine light, will be different depending on your vehicle.
You can usually find the sequence in your owner's manual. If you don't have one, you should be able to find out what the sequence is by typing a search phrase into Google including the make, model, and year of your car: for example, "How to reset the maintenance required light Honda Accord 2000."
Why Should I Reset the Maintenance Button Manually?
Do so at your own risk, but resetting your maintenance light manually can be preferable to leaving it on. Why is that? Because no one wants to drive a vehicle around with a warning light staring them in the face.
If you know the reason your maintenance required light has come on, and you don't find it necessary yet to take the vehicle in for maintenance, you might want to manually reset it. For example, some cars light up after only 3000 miles from your last oil change. With people who use high-grade oil like pure synthetic, they don't need to go in every 3000 miles for an oil change. The light is annoying, but, as I said, shut it off at your own risk.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Penny on June 16, 2019:
Does maintenance light stay on or just flashes on when you turn it on then after a few minutes it goes off is this normal? Yes
Neanderthalmann on March 15, 2018:
It's all bullshit. A scam for mechanics to take your money, tighten and loosen a few spare parts.. better off ignoring the lights and going on instinct. Men know when their vehicles need attention it's instinctual.
Victoria on September 02, 2017:
I just had my oil changed about a month ago at Midas n now my maintenance light came on for a few seconds these last two days. And I think Midas didn't really change my oil .how can I tell if they did by seeing if my oil looks lighter? AND thank you for your comments! Really helped! My Toyota Corolla thank you again!